Cryogenic treatment re-arranges the molecular structure of metals to distribute the molecules more uniformly. As an analogy, think of a flashlight—which basically scatters light—compared to a laser’s tight focus. Cryogenically treated metals become more durable, stronger without being harder, and are much more resistant to abrasive wear. If these sound like perfect characteristics for frets, you’re right.
These frets may look “normal,” but their molecular structure is superior to any other frets ever made.
Cryogenic treatment isn’t a new process; it’s been applied to airplane parts, rifles, brake rotors, and other applications that benefit from stronger metals—even brass instruments and strings. However, treatment is neither inexpensive nor simple (the process, which uses liquid nitrogen, typically occurs at temperatures around -300 degrees Fahrenheit), and hadn’t been tried before with frets. So, Gibson devised a method for testing fret wear to determine whether it was worth treating frets in the 2014 model year guitars.
Gibson technicians constructed a machine that automated string bends, and applied bends to both standard and cryogenically treated frets. After 277,000 string bends (give or take a few!), the results were conclusive: standard frets wore down four times more than cryogenically treated frets—0.008 inches compared to 0.002 inches. Amazingly, the extra resistance to wear happens without actually creating a harder fret, so the feel is exactly what you’d expect—it’s just that the fret is stronger.
In practical terms, this means that your 2014 model year guitar will almost certainly never need a fret job (unless you plan to live for several centuries). Thanks to cryogenically treated frets, no tech will need to tear up your fingerboard just so you can keep playing your favorite guitar.